3 strategies to help you cope with change

After a school year full of upheaval, Jo Steer shares wellbeing strategies to help teachers manage change in the future

Jo Steer

Teacher wellbeing: How teachers can cope with change amid the coronavirus crisis

As teachers, we’re no strangers to dealing with change.

We see our students, subjects, colleagues and job roles change, year upon year. We alter our planning, feedback and delivery continuously to meet the needs of our learners and leaders. We work amidst a backdrop of ever-shifting expectations, policies, pedagogy and goal-posts.

Oh… and we work with kids. So there’s that.

Of course, we can know that change is both constant and inevitable and still find it difficult to deal with. Especially this year, with the rug having been so abruptly pulled out from under us. A rug that is set to be replaced with a different rug in September – one that will likely never feel quite the same as its predecessor.

How teachers can cope with change

Thankfully, there are things that you can do to up your comfort levels when it comes to change. Here’s a few:

Decide what you can and can’t control

When I’ve found my worries spiralling over the past few months, this technique has really helped. Simply grab a sheet of paper and split it into two columns, one headed “can control” and the other “can’t”. Now, get those thoughts on to paper, under these headings.

What you’ll hopefully discover in doing this (particularly if it’s something you do repeatedly) is that even in the most uncertain of years, there are many things that we can control (ie, your breath, your body language, the choices you make, whether you look for solutions/opportunities or see only problems).  

Your mood is determined by whatever you point your attention towards. Therefore, if we consciously direct our attention towards what we can control, we can create a sense of certainty and calm, regardless of what’s happening around us.

Mindfully notice change

Adopt a beginner’s mind, bringing the kind of curiosity and non-judgement that allows you to experience things with fresh eyes. Notice your breath. Follow the inhale and exhale, one after the other. Notice how every breath is different. Every breath is unique.

Now, expand your awareness to the sensations of the body, scanning down from your head to your toes. Witness the feelings as they rise and fall like waves – watch them with curiosity – before bringing that same awareness to your mind. Notice thoughts pass, like clouds in the sky. Notice that much like clouds, no two thoughts are ever quite the same, even those that we repeat daily.

Finally, bring your attention to your surroundings and explore your senses. Notice the sounds, sights, smells, touch, taste; the way these fluctuate, shift and vary, minute by minute, moment by moment.

Paying attention in this way can be very revealing. Comforting, too, in that it demonstrates the ever-shifting nature of our internal and external environment. It allows us to see change as the constant that it is. A constant that we’ve been coping with all along, without realising it.

Remember your roots

Trees remain balanced and strong throughout changing seasons because their roots keep them fixed to the spot. I think that values work in much the same way for people.

So, what are your core values? Is it more important that you’re dependable or that you’re courageous? Does creativity and innovation matter more to you than status? Is it adventure that you crave or balance? Consider what your top two or three values are and ask whether your daily actions are aligned with them. If they’re not, think on what you might do to change that.

When we live in a way that’s true to what matters to us as individuals, then everything around us matters a lot less.

We can remain calm and steady, no matter what.

Jo Steer is a former leader now working with schools as a wellbeing consultant

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Jo Steer

Jo Steer is a former leader now working with schools as a wellbeing consultant

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